In the Community

Touching Art: A Sensory Art Show at McDowell Arts Center

When my daughter and I walked into the Sensory Art Show at McDowell Arts Center (123 E. McDowell St.), I still had to ask, “It’s okay to touch everything?” Melissa Johnson, Cultural Recreation Manager for the Town of Matthews, nodded and cheerfully said, “Yep.”

That’s exactly what we did: touched each piece, enjoyed the colors and textures, the variety of methods of art making covered in the exhibit. From metal sculpture to heavily textured abstracts, the show was also perfect for kids. Friendge, Andrea Vail’s interactive community-building project, was an unassuming table in the middle of the room, waiting for viewers to sit down and take part.

With this exhibit, it’s the interaction that sparks the magic of art in this show.

Enjoy some of the photos my daughter and I took, but also go and see it yourself. The Multi-Sensory Art Show is on display through July 5. Hours are typically Monday-Friday: 1 pm-8 pm, Saturday: 10 am-4 pm, and Sunday: 1pm-6pm, but call to double check first: 704-847-9746.

2810[high]5: Book Clubs

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The Pocket Size Book Club: I know you’ve probably already decided you don’t have time to join a book club. You’ve probably decided you don’t even have time to finish reading this article. But before you go, you should know that the Matthews Library hosts a book club specifically for those who are short on time. The Pocket Size Book Club meets monthly and discusses books that are 300 pages or less. For July, they will be reading Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas, a story about a friendship between a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid in Colombia during the reign of the violent drug lord, Pablo Escobar.

Date: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

230 Matthews Station St, Matthews, NC 28105

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Carolina Beer Temple Book Club: If you’ve ever hung out in downtown Matthews on a Tuesday evening, you probably know about the Carolina Beer Temple’s Tuesday Run Club. But did you know that once a month they also host a book club after the run? In case you’re more into reading than running, don’t worry, you don’t need to run to participate in the book discussion and the books will not be about running. For July, the club will be discussing the book Be Free or Die: The Amazing Store of Robert Smalls Escape from Slavery to Union Hero by Cate Lineberry.

Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2019 8:00 pm-9:00 pm

131 Matthews Station St #1C, Matthews, NC 28105

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Books on Tap: Matthews 20s & 30s Book Club: The Carolina Beer Temple is not the only place you can enjoy an adult beverage while discussing great reads. The Matthews Library hosts a monthly book club at Seaboard Taproom and Wine Bar specifically for the 20s and 30s crowd. In July, they will be reading (one of my personal favorites!) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Winner of a Pulitzer Prize, the novel is about the connecting paths of a blind French girl and a German boy during World War II.

Date: Thursday, July 11, 2019 -7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

213 N Trade St, Matthews, NC 28105

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Far Horizons Non-Fiction Book Club: If you’re more reading about real life, considering joining the Far Horizons Non-Fiction Book Club at the library. July’s book will be Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, by Jose Vargas. In his memoir, Vargas poignantly discusses his experience as an undocumented immigrant in the United States and the emotional complexities of trying to “pass” as an American and living in a country for most of your life but still not feeling as if you can call it home.

Date: Monday, July 8, 2019, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

Matthews Library, 230 Matthews Station St, Matthews, NC 28105

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Teen: Are you worried your teenager’s brains are beginning to melt over the summer? Encourage them to join the Teen Book Club at the library. Rather than focusing on one particular book, they select a different genre to discuss each month. For July, the focus will be Science Fiction books.

Date: Monday, July 15, 2019, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

Matthews Library, 230 Matthews Station St, Matthews, NC 28105


Are none of these book clubs your particular choice of genre? Did you know the Charlotte Mecklenburg library actually offers Book Club Kits to help you begin your own book discussion with friends, families, or even strangers? Each kit includes 10 copies of a book, biographical notes on the author, and sample discussion questions, and tips on how to host a successful book club.  Materials can be kept for up to six weeks, and you can learn more and see what book club kits are available by visiting the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library website.

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2810[high]5: Free (or Nearly Free) Fun

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Fountain Rock Park: This passive park is between the Trade St. and Country Place entrances to the greenway. Tucked off to the side, it’s the perfect spot to take the kids when they’re tired of being inside. Who knew a giant rock and splattering water could fuel the imagination? It’s a Matthews mom’s (or dad’s) miracle!

Near the entrance to 4-Mile Creek Greenway at Trade (311 S. Trade St.)

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Visiting the cats at PetSmart: All of the pet fun, none of the litter scooping. We go to PetSmart for essentials, but always stay an extra long time looking at the cats up for adoption. If there’s a volunteer on site, you can even get a few kitty snuggles in.

11210 Brigman Rd, Matthews, NC 28105

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Windsor Park: Go for the zip line, stay for the many opportunities to explore nature. The trees keep things cool, and this park gets bonus points for having a recycling bin at the picnic tables.

10140 Northeast Pkwy (Photos by the author)

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Matthews Library: Always a favorite because free, but also the summer programs look extra fun. This week Discovery Place has programs for all ages. Check the schedule to see what else is going on.

230 Matthews Station St. (Photos from the Library’s website)

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Live Music: This is where the “cheap” comes into play. Live music is easy to find if you’re going to a restaurant. But not buying food? Kinda feels a little weird. A lot of people go to Food Truck Friday just for the music. Why not get a slice of cake and enjoy the music at the Loyalist? This Saturday is a bluegrass band. Grace O’Malley’s hosts a Sunday Session, and the Farmers’ Market has live music as well.

(Top image by South Branch Bluegrass Band, bottom is author’s own)


2810[high]5: Places to Level Up Your Inner Nerd


A. Pennyworth’s Comics: Just like Alfred Pennyworth is a stable presence in the life of Bruce Wayne, so has A. Pennyworth’s Comics, News, and Collectibles been to Matthews. Celebrating their 20-year anniversary in September, A. Pennyworth’s offers new and old comics and collectibles from your favorite tv show, movie, and (of course!)comic book. Whether you’re Team Batman, Team Superman, or Team Not Sure Who to Root For, your Inner Nerd will enjoy questing through the racks of comics, graphic novels, and other pop culture items inside the shop.

11025 Monroe Road, Ste. D Matthews, North Carolina 28105

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AMF Carolina Lanes: Does thinking of the bowling alley conjure up more of your Inner

Dude than your Inner Nerd? At AMF in Matthews, you don’t need to worry whether or not

your mystery block lands on your Big Lebowski or your Big Daddy- both can have a

great time. In addition to bowling, Matthews’ favorite bowling alley also includes an

extensive arcade with both new and classic video games for your Inner Nerd to dedicate

some time to leveling up.

11210 Brigman Rd, Matthews, NC 28105


Temple Mojo: Is your Inner Nerd more the drinking and knowing things type? TempleMojo frequently hosts themed trivia nights where you can prove both of those skills. Past themes have included The Avengers, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones. Plus, Temple Mojo has 26 beers on tap, so whether you fancy yourself a Lannister, a Stark, a Dothraki, or a Wildling, they have plenty of choices to fill up your cup.

195 N Trade St, Matthews, NC 28105

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Charlotte Academy of Music: It may be too late to invest in a magic wand and send your own Inner Nerd off to Hogwarts, but for one magical, spellbinding week this summer, your child can experience the wizarding world of Harry Potter at the CharlotteAcademy of Music’s Harry Potter summer camp. They will start their week off meetingHogwarts famous sorting hat and learn once and for all whether they really are a Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw. Once placed into their individual houses, campers will spend their time creating Harry Potter inspired art. Camp will end with an exhibition for family and friends and the announcing of the winner of the House Cup. Two sessions of camp are still available!

15040 Idlewild Rd Suite C, Matthews, NC 28104


NerdsToGo: Is your inner nerd still a technology newb? That’s okay, NerdsToGo has you covered. If you find your inner (or outer) nerd is facing a technology monster that’s above their player level, contact NerdsToGo. With their home office located in Matthews, NerdsToGo will travel to you and offers maintenance and repair services for your computer or smart device.

3521 Matthews-Mint Hill Rd, Matthews, NC 28105

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2810[high]5: Flowers to Forage

Edible flowers are a delicate way to add variety to your palate, and when they’re in abundance and right outside your door, then why not? Eat them fresh on a salad, or make a simple syrup. This is a basic recipe. I tend to use a full cup of flowers per cup of water.

Some quick etiquette for your foraging expedition: don’t take all of what you find, someone else may forage there, too; make sure it’s not an area that’s sprayed with herbicide; if you’re harvesting from a heavily traveled roadside, make sure you’re 30-feet or more from the road.

As always, make sure you know exactly what you’re harvesting.

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Chive Blossoms: This one is less “foraging” and more scouring the garden for what’s in bloom. While the other flowers on this list lend a sweeter flavor profile, chive blossoms provide a savory component to the spectrum of edible flowers. Pour white vinegar over a handful of blossoms for a delicious (fuchsia!) salad vinegar, add to savory crepes, sprinkle on a salad—use chive blossoms for a mild hint of onion.


Dandelion: I know, I know, your HOA wants them gone, the bees want them for pollen, and now I’m telling you to eat them. It’s easy to find recipes for this sunny flower—wine, fritters, syrup, and jam. Pickle the buds before they open for a locavore take on capers.

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

Elderflowers: The large umbels are cheering up roadside ditches everywhere right now. You may have tried the flavor while drinking a St. Germain-based cocktail or in a hot tea. The flowers are considered medicinal by many, and similar in use to the elderberry. Can’t find the time to forage? These you can find dried at the Matthews Farmers’ Market!

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Honeysuckle: Invasive honeysuckle is an easy one to identify. Dry some in a dehydrator (or in an oven on the lowest setting with the oven door open) for a tasty tea. One hot cup of honeysuckle tea is a throat-soothing reminder of summer in the dead of winter. Or make a refreshing syrup for homemade sodas and popsicles!

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

Linden: Blossoms on the linden trees are just starting to appear. As with all flowers, syrup is a popular go-to. Linden (or tilia) is also popular as an evening tea; sit down with a cup when you’re ready to wind down for the day. Another common recipe is to preserve the flowers in honey for a pancake topping. Use the syrup in place of gin for a mocktail twist on the classic gin and tonic.


Matthews Last Week Today

Last week’s events throughout Matthews included several significant topics: transportation, affordable housing, and local food. Here are a few snapshots from each.

Last week Alta Design, a consultant for the Town of Matthews, hosted several workshops and open work sessions to provide residents with the opportunity for input in transportation within the downtown Matthews footprint. If you couldn’t make it to one of the sessions, watch the Facebook Live video presented by Town of Matthews Transportation Planner Dana Stoogenke, AICP, and John Cock, Alta Design + Planning VP.

Greater Matthews Habitat for Humanity held a home dedication for their most recently completed home. This home was part of the Sandy Marano Memorial Women Build. Matthews residents and Habitat supporters showed up en masse for the ribbon cutting and dedication.

Volunteers for the Matthews Volunteer Farmers’ Market gathered for their annual thank you lunch at Sante. Market Manager Paulette Wilkes and Assistant Manager Jessica Thomas shared words of gratitude for the volunteers before a casual, locally-sourced lunch prepared by Chef Adam Reed.

Vivian Brenner: Life Independent of Faith

I wasn’t really sure what to say. Religion is a private matter. At least, that’s how I was raised.

“Where is your faith home?” Vivian Brenner, a Matthews resident for almost two decades, was startled by this frequent question when she moved here from Washington, DC, back in 2000. “I wasn’t really sure what to say. Religion is a private matter. At least, that’s how I was raised.” People she met would press her for an answer. A few even became incensed when she replied, “I don’t have one.”

Brenner considers herself an atheist though culturally Jewish. Her parent’s families were Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia. Her mother’s side of the family was more interested in helping people than in religious observance. They were union organizers in New York City for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. “Grandpa was very fierce about human rights. About people’s right to have a dignified life.”

Vivian’s Maternal Grandmother

Vivian’s Maternal Grandmother

Her father’s family were more traditional, conservative Jews, but with the same interest in helping others. Her great aunt collected food from the well-to-do to stock food pantries for new immigrants in Norfolk, VA, in the early 1900s.

As for her own upbringing, “My dad was a scientist. We were very much guided by his scientific method, testing every belief.”

All of us. We’re supposed to make the world a better place for everyone, not just a special few.
Photo courtesy Vivian Brenner

Photo courtesy Vivian Brenner

With this family background, Brenner developed a deep belief in treating people well. “All of us. We’re supposed to make the world a better place for everyone, not just a special few.” Her lack of belief in an external God “is not a denial of anyone’s personal beliefs.” She feels strongly about this. “I don’t care what people say their beliefs are or what church they go to or don’t go to. I care about how people behave.”

Matthews, says Brenner, while not overtly prejudiced about religion, is influenced by its predominantly Christian population. Meetings begin with Christian prayers. Public spaces are decorated for Christian holidays. Awareness of her minority status is unavoidable. She feels “an ingrown caution” when it comes to talking about religion with people she does not know. “I am pretty discreet in Matthews and in my life.”

Matthews, while not overtly prejudiced about religion, is influenced by its predominantly Christian population. Awareness of her minority status is unavoidable.

Discreet though she may be, Brenner is not afraid to raise her voice and stand up for her beliefs.  In June of 2013, she joined the Moral Monday protesters at the state legislature building in Raleigh, led by Rev. William Barber, protesting poor teacher pay, erosion of voting rights, and lack of Medicare expansion. Thousands showed up for these protests begun in 2013, and more than a thousand protesters have been arrested over the years. On June 3, 2013, Brenner was among the protesters arrested for trespass. The arrest record reads, in part, “…assembled with at least three or more persons engaged in disorderly conduct… failed to disperse and remained at the scene.” Another charge was “Post or display of signs and placards.” Brenner was carrying an 8.5X11” sheet of paper that read “Protect Voting Rights.”

Brenner has great respect for Rev. Barber’s work, but, she says, a belief in God is “unrelated to my belief in moral, considerate and ethical behavior.” Reverend Barber agrees.


Meet Your Neighbor: Valerie Rhymer

Immediately upon meeting Valerie Rhymer you “get” why she’s a Kindermusik teacher. Her natural smile, focused attention, and vibrant personality is precisely what you’d want in a music teacher for young children.

The classroom is a community all its own, but representative of the greater Matthews community as well: neighborly sharing and easy kindnesses.

After spending nearly two decades working with Children’s Theater, Valerie decided it was time for a shorter commute. Now she spends her mornings teaching Kindermusik at the Community Center, and the commute is much better. In fact, her new commute is a couple of minutes on foot—she walks to work from her family’s downtown Matthews home.

Valerie moved to Charlotte in 1998 from Montana and moved to Matthews five years ago. The cozy community and walkability brought her family of three to town. The good school system helped, as well.

Visit one of her classes, and you’ll see how she weaves her attentiveness into what could otherwise be a chaotic (yet fun) playgroup. What do such small children gain from the experience? Watch the interactions between parent and child, and it’s obvious; they learn in countless ways: from simple acts like sharing and taking turns, to developing awareness like shape recognition and sensory exploration. They even learn a little bit of American Sign Language.

For those who don’t believe they are musically inclined, Valerie quickly dispels that idea, “Your voice is your child’s favorite sound! Give yourself some credit!”

Above all, the class emphasizes the importance of togetherness. That active engagement between families and friends makes her classes a success. The classroom is a community all its own, but representative of the greater Matthews community as well: neighborly sharing and easy kindnesses. You get the feeling that’s Valerie’s approach in all aspects of life.

Have a neighbor you want to know more about or do you want to be featured? Let us know!

HAWK's Earth Day with Kids in Nature Celebration

Habitat and Wildlife Keeper’s 2019 Earth Day with Kids In Nature Day event was this past Saturday at Squirrel Lake Park. If you didn’t make it out, the group hosted about 40 vendors and area nonprofits who engaged area kids about and taught all things nature.

If you couldn’t make it, don’t fret! We’ve took photos to share a few of our favorite booths.

Dulce Bravo: One of Matthews' Newest Firefighters

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Monroe resident Dulce Bravo plays an essential role in Matthews; she’s a firefighter for the Matthews Fire & EMS Department. 

Of the firefighters in the US, only 7% are women. There are eleven women in the 84-person Matthews Fire & EMT Department, including one paid full-time firefighter, three firefighter/EMTs, and seven EMTs. Of the twelve Fire Corps members, a whopping 25% are women.

Bravo, as her coworkers call her, is that one full-timer. 

Thanks to a budget increase for the Matthews Fire & EMS Department in 2018, Bravo was one of eleven new hires. Her strong sense of community and her eagerness to serve brought her to Matthews.  She loves the small town friendliness and being able to support the community in an integral way. 

It was a chilling experience that led Bravo to emergency services: a friend died in front of her. That friend, she believes, could’ve been saved with CPR. It’s an experience that led her to train to save lives and etched in her a firm belief that more people should be trained to perform CPR. 

She first trained as an EMT and started responding to calls, but as she watched firefighters going into burning buildings she realized she wanted to be the one to do that--the first to go in to help, the first to administer first aid. Waiting was not for her. Bravo studied, trained, and became a certified firefighter. Her first job was as a volunteer in the Monroe Fire Department. 

In a field where technology continually improves and levels the physical playing field, more and more women are joining fire departments. Gone are the days when it was thought a firefighter had to be able to throw a someone over their shoulder to carry out of a burning building. Newer techniques and lighter gear make it possible for someone who can’t bench press their own body weight to pursue a firefighting career. 

Still, fighting fires and saving lives is not a job for the faint of heart. It takes sharp thinking, quick problem solving, and the ability to communicate and work as a team. While working, firefighters must maintain composure under tremendous pressure, and, of course, be strong. The protective gear alone can weigh 45 pounds, add a fire hose or ladder to that and the added weight can be 100 pounds or more. Bravo may not bench press an elephant, but we still wouldn't challenge her to any feats of strength.

Even after realizing there may be challenges as a female in a male-dominated field, Bravo knew a career with Matthews is for her. Before joining, she wondered if being a woman would matter. Having  been in Matthews for several months now, she says of the department, “They’re supportive, patient, and they don’t make you ‘feel like a girl.’”  What Bravo has found here is camaraderie, respect, and a group of people who are first and foremost dedicated to helping others.

Photo courtesy the Matthews Fire & EMS Department

Photo courtesy the Matthews Fire & EMS Department

Rezoning: Bainbridge Matthews (Matthews-Mint Hill Road)

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Land clearing has begun for Bainbridge Matthews, a future development located on Matthews-Mint Hill Road near Butler High School. This land was formerly the Oakhaven Mobile Home Park, Overcash homestead, and Query Homestead.

On December 11, 2017, the Board of Commissioners approved Rezoning Request 2017-663 with Higdon, Miller, Ross, Whitley and Urban in favor and Taylor and Melton opposed. The property, totaling 30.752 acres, was rezoned from R-12, O(CD), R-MH, RU, and BH to R-12MF(CD).

(What do those zoning codes mean? There’s a chart for that.)

Now demolished, the Overcash home, built in 1921, had significant remodeling and was therefore not a good candidate for historic preservation or relocation. The barn was in fair condition, but the Town had little need for it after repurposing the Idlewild Road barn. A log cabin on the site is likely over 100 years old was offered to the town for historic preservation. The cabin will need some reconditioning.

The multifamily Bainbridge Matthews complex consists of 350 rental units, including both apartments and townhomes. Two pocket parks will flank the entrance at Northeast Parkway and will be available for public use daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The developer will construct the portion on Northeast Parkway that will run through their property, as well as a multi-use path on one side and a sidewalk on the other. The developer has accounted for 18 bike parking spots throughout the complex.

Though not noted on the original staff report, in October 2017 the Planning Department added the following information:

  • CMS indicates this project will generate 128 new students for Crown Point Elementary, Mint Hill Middle, and Butler High School. by this project.

  • The trip generation report indicates a total of 2,245 cars per day.

Bainbridge will preserve at least 15% of the existing tree canopy (a minimum tree save of 4.79 acres) as directed by R12-MF zoning. The majority of tree save is along property boundaries.

In the process of approving any new development the board discusses the affect on town services, the tax base, and projected tax revenue from the project. Prior to development the tax revenue was $16,700 (total for both parcels), the anticipated tax revenue (after construction) is an estimated $128,000.

If you’re looking for the Cliff Notes version, here’s a handy dandy summary:

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Matthews Community Farmers' Market: Putting the Community in the Farmers' Market


Open year-round on Saturdays (rain or shine), the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market kicks off its 28th year this Saturday. Originally a tailgate market open in spring and summer, the market eventually expanded into winter hours. With the spring schedule in full-effect, the market will be open from 8 a.m. to noon until late fall.

To kick off the season the market has Chef Jamie Lynch (of 5Church and Top-Chef fame) booked to provide a cooking demo. Chef Lynch will make something decidedly mind-blowing with ingredients sourced at the market prior to his demo. Riley Nelson will provide a musical backdrop of ukulele and guitar throughout the morning. Come with an empty belly and grab an Austro-Hungarian breakfast pretzel from the ever-popular StrudelTieg food truck.

Because everything is grown, raised, or made within 50 miles of Matthews, (the exception is fish, which is caught off the North Carolina coast by the fisherman selling it), you won’t see baskets of bananas or avocados. Everything is in season and fresh from the farm, often harvested a few short hours before you buy it.


It’s a little easier to know what’s in-season if you garden, but for those of you who enjoy eating more than digging, here’s a general idea for spring crops:

Leafy greens including lettuce, spinach, endive, arugula, and mizuna; root vegetables such as beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips; cole crops such as cabbage, broccoli (and broccoli raab), kale, collards, and cauliflower; some peas and beans—think edamame and sugar snaps; leeks, green onions, and fennel also make an appearance; growers with a greenhouse might even have a few tomatoes at their stands.


There will be plenty of free-range chicken eggs, meats (including lamb), as well as cow’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses, and cultured butter. If you’re suffering from the sniffles, put some local honey on your shopping list.

If you’re a gardener, plan out your plots. The market farmers offer plenty of transplants, some Certified Organic, to start your garden, including tomatoes, edible herbs, and soil-building comfrey. Windcrest Farm, one of the first farmers in the area to grow turmeric and ginger, will have “seed” to start your own. Save room in your home garden for a rhizome colony of both Hawaiian Red and Indira Yellow turmeric.

Make sure to budget a little extra for the locally made handmade goods. Have you been admiring the bee sculpture at the Country Place pocket Park? Artist Amy Hart will have her colorful, garden-centric sculptures for sale. Madison Woodworks will have an array of hand-carved spoons and bowls that are functional works of art.

This Saturday, grab your reusable totes, a wallet filled with cash (many vendors accept cards but cash saves them the processing fee), and put on comfy shoes. Even if you’re not shopping, you’re bound to see some familiar faces. The conversation will be good, and the veggies will be even better.

Nonagenarians: Matthews Neighbors in Their Nineties


The first Wednesday of every month a motley crew of ninety-something-year-olds gathers in a common room of the Willow Grove Senior Living facility for the Nonagenarian Club. With 23 residents in their nineties (and eight 89-year-olds), it's common for the attendees to change from month to month. Some are already friends, but many are meeting for the first time.

Willow Grove is more like an apartment complex with nice amenities than the drab “senior housing” of ages past. The residents are self-sufficient and come to the community rooms for social time (BYOB Happy Hour is an apparent fave). It’s an interesting dynamic when the group gets together: there are polite introductions and some small talk. Without facilitation, there’s no immediate topic that arises from a similarity in age. It takes time, casual conversation, and sharing stories, then the commonalities arise.

She fondly remembers her “uncle” Sam Newell - a family friend who carted her on the back of his mule to Doc Mac’s office (now Zab’s Place) when a copperhead bit her toe.

Both Ruby McLeod (nee Hargett) and Peggy Outen grew up in Matthews and have known each other for most of their lives. If you’ve been in Matthews a few years, you may recognize their “old Matthews” last names. Ruby was one of eight siblings, and the only one in the family delivered by the Dr. Reid. She fondly remembers her “uncle” Sam Newell - a family friend who carted her on the back of his mule to Doc Mac’s office (at the corner of Trade and John) when a copperhead bit her toe.

Others, like Jo Martin and Mary Bruce Austin, are from the area, but not Matthews specifically.

With more conversation, more commonalities arise. They all agree that they like Matthews, that the area is changing rapidly, and, after a recent group outing, Cheesecake Factory food wasn’t up to the hype.

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Among the nonagenarians and centenarians, there are nearly three women for every man. Naturally, the majority of club members are women. This month, one quiet man sits at the head of the table: Tracy Johnson. Whether he wants to share or not, the others at the table have lots of questions followed by a little bit of teasing. Tracy, a career marine, has stories of flying past US Presidents in HMX-1 Helicopters and talks proudly of his three kids - all of whom graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill.  At 97, Tracy spends his time painting and familiarizing himself with Matthews from the drivers’ side of a sporty red BMW.

Peggy Outen and Florence Ferko

Peggy Outen and Florence Ferko

This age group has lived through conflict, seen spouses off to war, and waited for their return home: World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and for the career military, the Gulf War.

Florence Ferko, a World War II war bride, married at 18 and followed her husband to the US. Her accent and mannerisms are still heavily British, and enjoys coffee served in a teacup. In contrast, Betty Hans was born and raised in Long Island to German immigrant parents. Hearing Long Island caught the attention of Ruth Koss, whose home was just outside of Newark, New Jersey.  It didn’t take long for the conversation to shift to regional foods challenging to find this far south.

Aside from food, it’s the mention of the military that amps up the conversation. Marguerite Bonney’s husband spent two years in the army, Ruby’s husband was a POW in Germany for 15 months. Jo was born and raised in Charlotte but spent six years traveling with her Air Force-enlisted husband. The military connections make sense, though. This age group has lived through conflict, seen spouses and friends off to war, and waited for their return home: World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and for the career military, the Gulf War.

Despite disparate interests and hobbies, the commonalities have now been found, and the chatter is lively. The women discuss their travels, their kids (for those that have them), and the towns and cities they called home before Matthews. For Ruth, North Carolina just seemed like a good place to live. For others, they moved here to be closer to their families. Others still never left, showing their lifelong love of Matthews.

And that one man sitting at the head of the table, remains fairly quiet, simply enjoying the time with his fellow nonagenarians.

Tracy Johnson and Ruby McLeod

Tracy Johnson and Ruby McLeod

2810[high]5: Places We've Been

There’s always something going on in Matthews, and while we can’t cover it all, here are a few highlights from the past couple weeks.

Saint Patrick’s Day weekend was the soft opening for Grace O’Malley’s (157 Trade St.). Like any good neighbor, we nosed our way in to see what was going on. The staff, of course, graciously extended a warm, Irish welcome.


After attending Matthews 101 in the fall, Renee signed up for Civics 101, the Mecklenburg County introduction to local government. The five-week class covered some Charlotte topics, but provided a more in-depth look at the county, though Matthews came up a surprising amount. Topics included, among others, the justice system, the school board, and county government.


Good Cup and The Loyalist have been hosting pop-up markets for the past couple of months filled with vendors who lovingly hand create products. We’ve been to all of them, and the community just keeps growing. What a terrific way to support local folks.


We tried out a free Matthews Concert Band concert when on the hunt for live music in Matthews. The band is much larger than expected, and the show was an absolute delight. It’s a family-friendly experience, and well worth going to if you’re not sure your kids are ready to sit through the full value of a symphony ticket.


We’re at as many Town Council Meetings (and planning conferences) as possible, and when we’re not, we’re watching/listening online. Some are longer than others, and some are way more entertaining than others, but nothing beats being there in person to see and hear what’s going on.


Rezoning: 10252 Monroe Road

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Land clearing began last week for Residences Galleria (formerly called Proximity Matthews), the apartment complex going up across from Family Dollar on Monroe Road. The project is a 250-unit rental community consisting of both multifamily buildings and townhomes.

The developer, Taft Development / Income Investments, LLC, applied for rezoning in September of 2016. The 21.668-acre property at 10252 Monroe Road was zoned R-VS (residential, varied style with a higher density). The 2016 application requested rezoning to R-12 MF (CD) (residential, multi-family, conditional use).

On February 13, 2017 five members of the Board of Commissioners (Taylor, Melton, Higdon, Miller, and Whitley) voted in favor of approving rezoning application 2016-652. Commissioner Ross opposed. Commissioner Urban, also the architect on the project, was excused from voting.

In 2015 a rezoning application for a 350-unit development on the same property was unanimously denied (Taylor, Pata, Higdon, Melton, Miller, Query, and Ross).

Residences Galleria will contain garden apartments ranging in size from 750 square feet for a one-bedroom to 1350 square feet for a three-bedroom. The townhomes will be two- and three-bedroom.

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In addition to the building construction, Taft will place a concrete pad Charlotte Area Transit System stop on Monroe Road. They have also committed to constructing a portion of Sardis Greenway along the rear of the property, between the new development and Sardis Forest neighborhood. Plans include moving the current street-adjacent sidewalk along Monroe Road will be moved further back onto the property. While the agreement for rezoning included saving the mature trees near Monroe Rd. many of those trees were cut down. Taft will pay a fine to the Town of Matthews in the amount of $150,000 for a violation of the rezoning agreement.

The project includes means for protecting the historic Rosedale Cemetery such as removing dead plant debris by hand, a perimeter fence, and an easement for public parking for access to the cemetery.

Though requested, Town Staff had not received a response from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in time to be included in the Staff Report presented to Town Council. According to CMS, this project will add 80 new students: 51 at Greenway Park Elementary, 12 at McClintock, and 17 at East Mecklenburg High. According to 2017 data (when the project was approved), this project will put the schools at 133%, 82%, and 112% capacity respectively.

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